CFP: Figures of Comparison (grad) (12/31/06; 3/2/07-3/3/07)

full name / name of organization: 
Arne De Boever
contact email:

CFP: Figures of Comparison in the Humanities and the Social Sciences

Date/Place: March 2nd-3rd, 2007/ Columbia University, New York

Keynote speaker: To Be Announced

The Center for Comparative Literature and Society (CCLS) at Columbia=20
University, New York invites papers for its second graduate student=20
conference entitled =93Figures of Comparison in the Humanities and the=20=

Social Sciences.=94 By =93figures of comparison,=94 we mean both objects =
study that call for a comparative approach and comparative methods that=20=

invite us to discuss these objects in new ways. Papers should examine=20
the question of comparison through a sustained engagement with an=20
object and/or method that is related to one of the six panel topics=20
outlined below. Although we prefer papers related to the proposed=20
panels, we are also willing to take into consideration other paper or=20
panel proposals.

The conference will be introduced by the director of CCLS, Gayatri=20
Chakravorty Spivak. Panels will be moderated by Elizabeth Povinelli,=20
Susan Boynton, Joseph Massad, Stathis Gourgouris, Bruce Robbins, and=20
Marianne Hirsch. The conference will close with a roundtable discussion=20=

in which the panel moderators will present their concluding thoughts=20
and open the discussion to the public.

Please send a 300-500 word abstract to the following e-mail address no=20=

later than December 31st, 2006:

The conference organizers,

Adam Bund
Arne De Boever
Olivia Harrison
Susanne Knittel

Economies of Translation/Transfiguration/=85 (mod. Elizabeth Povinelli)

Karl Marx argues in the Grundrisse that the money form is a fantasy of=20=

translation and that commodity exchange emerges at the boundaries of=20
otherwise distinct communities. This is only one speculative genealogy=20=

establishing translation as a concept/ practice that binds together=20
multiple economies of circulation. Insofar as comparativism is often=20
described as a process of translation =96 between languages, =
cultures, histories, and more =96 this panel seeks to investigate the=20
hegemony of translation as a figure for comparative work. For example,=20=

according to Elizabeth Povinelli and Dilip Gaonkar, the concept of=20
transfiguration is more adequate to the current moment than the concept=20=

of translation: =93Focusing on transfiguration rather than translation =96=
the refunctioning of a text as such for different demanding-sites =96=20
orients our analysis toward the calibration of vectors of power rather=20=

than vectors of meaning-value.=94 We are also thinking, for example, of=20=

the =93musical=94 notion of transposition as a productive alternative=20
metaphor; but there are many others. For this panel, we invite papers=20
that discuss questions such as: Is translatability a conceptual=20
infrastructure which remains in the face of a new and mathematicized=20
lingua franca? Is it something else? What is at stake politically or=20
ethically in a methodological shift away from translation? If such a=20
shift leads from trans-lation to trans-figuration or trans-position,=20
what are the implications of insisting on the prefix =93trans-=94? What=20=

could be the benefits of the prefixes =93inter-=94 or =93cross-=94? How =
can we=20
understand the residual force of the nation or the region in producing=20=

and regulating economic/political/cultural relations in the age of=20

Sites and Sounds of Comparison (mod. Susan Boyton)

In The Production of Space, Henri Lef=E8bvre poses the question of the=20=

metaphor of reading: what does it mean to =93read=94 space? What are the=20=

limits or advantages of approaching an object of study as text? If=20
architecture has played a prominent role in literary and cultural=20
studies (monumentality, memorialization, textual architecture), the=20
very notion of reading has pervaded nearly all non-literary=20
enterprises. In this panel we seek papers that raise the question of=20
reading in the study of fields as disparate as architecture, geography,=20=

musicology, anthropology, media and visual studies (radio, film, art=20
history=85). What other metaphors might more appropriately describe and=20=

body forth the study of space, sound, or visual material? How might=20
these approaches supplement or transform the way we read actual text?=20
Can we conceive of the comparative object as a =93site=94 of comparison,=20=

using the spatial metaphor to designate a juncture, conjunction, or=20
intersection that defies traditional disciplines or fields?

Enemies, Strangers, Neighbors, Friends (mod. Joseph Massad)

In his book The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy, Gil Anidjar=20
maintains that Europe=92s concept of the enemy =93remains yet to be=20
formulated.=94 This =93to-come=94 points toward a =93comparative=94 =
nature of the=20
enemy, i.e. the fact that Europe=92s concept of the enemy is structured=20=

by its relation to both the Arab and the Jew. For this panel, we invite=20=

papers that critically engage with the figures of the enemy =96 the=20
stranger, the neighbor, and the friend =96 through the comparative study=20=

of a specific object: e.g. Europe=92s construction of a=20
=93south-mediterranean fence=94 (Balibar), the figure of the pirate in =
work of Carl Schmitt, or the partisan struggle in Iraq. Papers may=20
address some of the following questions: can there be a political=20
community that would not be predicated on the production of identity=20
and alterity? Is it possible to practice an identity politics that=20
would function as a critique of sovereign power while at the same time=20=

insisting on sovereignty=92s strongly egalitarian and democratic=20
implications? What would it mean to think of such an identity politics=20=

as comparative? What understanding of theology is implicit in=20
contemporary concepts of the political? Can theology still be=20
articulated in opposition to secularism? Should secularism perhaps be=20
understood in opposition to nationalism? What could be the benefits of=20=

a postsecular perspective?

Figures of the In-Between (mod. Stathis Gourgouris)

Various tropes of hybridity (Bhabha)=97m=E9tissage (Lionnet), mestizaje=20=

(Anzald=FAa), cr=E9olit=E9 (Bernab=E9, Confiant, Chamoiseau), or =
(Glissant), for example=97have featured prominently in the scholarship=20=

and aesthetic practices of the last thirty years to figure modes of=20
cultural mixing. Others=97trans- or cross-sexuality, the androgyne, and=20=

forms of sexual indeterminacy=97have been used critically in gender,=20
feminist, and queer studies. This panel proposes to examine figures or=20=

tropes of the in-between that simultaneously call for a comparative=20
(interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, multilingual, etc.) approach, and=20
figure the comparative itself. What are the political, social and=20
economic implications of such figures of hybridity? To what political=20
uses can (or should) they be put? How does the history of these terms=20
affect their deployment, or shore up their limits? Because these=20
figures point to the intersectionality of analytic categories (class,=20
race, gender) and to the meeting of cultures, languages, and histories,=20=

we are particularly interested in cross-disciplinary and intercultural=20=

approaches: how do these comparative figures test the boundaries of=20
disciplinary fields and cultural or linguistic formations? Conversely,=20=

how do disciplines, languages or fields shape tropes of the in-between,=20=

or point to their limitations?

Figures of Intellectual Labor (mod. Bruce Robbins)

Claude L=E9vi-Strauss issues a challenge to comparativists when he =
his Tristes Tropiques by declaring, =93I hate traveling and explorers.=94=20=

To L=E9vi-Strauss, mere movement or the simple encounter with difference=20=

can never constitute the foundations of a truly comparative=20
anthropology. In The Savage Mind, L=E9vi-Strauss further interrogates =
subject of comparison by distinguishing between two modes of knowledge=20=

acquisition: that of the scientist and that of the bricoleur. Whereas=20
the former attempts to move beyond the constraints imposed by a=20
particular state of civilization, the latter makes do with whatever is=20=

at hand. This panel proposes to discuss whether structure, or even=20
structuralism, is a necessary precondition for acts of comparative=20
imagination. Gilles Deleuze=92s notion of the assemblage =96 an ensemble =
language, affect, and machine located neither on the side of the=20
subject nor on the side of the object of knowledge =96 is one of the =
possibilities for comparative inquiry that refuses the dictates of=20
structuralism. For this panel, papers should examine various figures of=20=

intellectual labor =96 the traveler, the explorer, the scientist, the=20
bricoleur, the assemblage =96 as they are mobilized to describe=20
comparative work across disciplines by asking, for example: What is the=20=

relationship between journalism and academic production? Is a focus on=20=

the experiences/ itineraries of the migrant a sufficient basis for=20
comparativism? What is the residual strength of abstractions like=20
=93culture=94 or =93society=94 as organizing principles of comparative =
How do various forms of communications technology structure in advance=20=

the possibilities for comparison? Do some of these forms call for=20
scientists while others call for bricoleurs?

Unthinking Generations: Kinship and Comparison (mod. Marianne Hirsch)

Sigrid Weigel argues that =93generation=94 is a hybrid concept that =
between different academic fields and discourses, and invites=20
comparative inquiry. She theorizes generation as a process or movement=20=

less of evolutionary than of cultural, historical, and narrative=20
patterning: a generation is shaped by commonalities of experience as=20
well as by temporal, geographic, and cultural differences. In=20
Antigone=92s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death, Judith Butler asks=20=

what will be the =93legacy of Oedipus=94 for those who are formed in =
situations =93where positions are hardly clear, where the place of the=20=

father is dispersed, where the place of the mother is multiply occupied=20=

or displaced, where the symbolic in its stasis no longer holds?=94 For=20=

this panel, we invite papers that contribute to our understanding of=20
comparative studies by asking, for example, what is the role of=20
genealogy and family narrative in the study of cultural memory? What is=20=

the role of the family metaphor in political theory? If the comparative=20=

can be rethought (after Weigel and Butler) as a =93generational=94 or=20
=93familial=94 concept, in what way would it invite us to reconsider the=20=

notion of disciplinarity? Taking into account that the word=20
=93generation=94 also means =93the process of generating,=94 =
could also propose to think through comparativism as an =93emergent=94=20=

(dominant? residual?) mode of inquiry today.

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Received on Sun Nov 12 2006 - 23:13:47 EST

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